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Innovation showcase

How the cloud helped two finance teams during the pandemic

Trident Maritime, Knoll lean on Oracle Cloud EPM to close their books, gain new insights.


By Margaret Harrist | December 2020


As office employees started working remotely amid the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses were concerned about whether their systems could support this new arrangement.

Finance teams that rely on manual processes, Excel spreadsheets, and face-to-face meetings to consolidate data and prepare bank reports had to adapt. But for the finance team at Trident Maritime Systems, an Arlington, Virginia-based company that designs, fabricates, and installs maritime interior systems, closing the books while working from home was “business as usual,” says Shawn Bulisco, director of financial reporting.

“It was a seamless transition to working remotely,” Bulisco says. “Our company is spread out globally—in the US, Europe, Asia, and Scandinavia—and we didn’t have any challenges. We were prepared because it was already set up.”

In late 2017, Trident worked with Peloton Consulting Group to implement the Oracle Fusion Cloud Enterprise Performance Management application to manage its financial consolidation and close processes. Previously, its finance team would have had to use a VPN, rather than a simple web browser and Wi-Fi, to tunnel into its on-premises application, and such connections are notoriously spotty, he says.

What’s more, the team can now close the books in about a day-and-a-half using Oracle Cloud EPM, compared with about a week previously, leaving it more time to do financial analysis.

No more spreadsheet madness

While Trident’s finance staffers already were adept at using Oracle Cloud EPM when they started working remotely, the team at furniture company Knoll was working with implementation partner interRel Consulting on the final phase of go-live. The finance team was scheduled to do its first monthly close using the Oracle Cloud application in March. And then the pandemic hit, forcing everyone to work from home.

 

“We are able to easily investigate things during the close that we never could in the past. We were actually very surprised that it was so seamless.”

Antonella Serrao, Vice President of Finance and Corporate Controller, Knoll

For that close in March, Knoll split its remote finance team into two groups, with one working on the legacy system and the other working concurrently on the new cloud-based system.

The team’s standard process on the legacy system was to finish rolling up and consolidating ledgers on day four and provide a companywide view. On day five, it would produce segment reports.

With the Oracle Cloud EPM application, team members were able to roll up both company and segment results on day four—a 20% reduction in time.

Closing the books on the legacy system was manual—lots of spreadsheets and non-standardized reports, says Antonella Serrao, vice president of finance and corporate controller for Knoll, based in East Greenville, Pennsylvania.

When questions came up during the close about a subsidiary’s ledger, intercompany eliminations (removal of transactions that took place between subsidiaries) or a specific balance, her team had to ask the subsidiary to look in its general ledger to explain what was happening. And with Knoll’s corporate office in the US and some subsidiaries in Europe, those answers often didn’t come until the following day.

With the cloud system, the corporate finance team now has increased visibility into subsidiary reporting. “Having that capability means we are able to easily investigate things during the close that we never could in the past,” Serrao says. “We were actually very surprised that it was so seamless.”

Working remotely

With offices in the U.S. and Europe, Knoll creates modern design for workplaces, work-from-home settings and luxury residential interiors.

While Serrao doesn’t anticipate doing away with spreadsheets altogether, many of those tasks are now handled in Oracle Cloud EPM. One example is segment allocations—corporate-born costs allocated to business segments. Serrao and her team worked closely with interRel to build those different allocations into the system so that the right numbers were automatically applied.

Another example is a subsidiary that rolls up into multiple segments (such as office furniture or residential furniture). In the past, they would have to split out subsidiary results and apply the right amounts to the appropriate segment for segment reporting. Today, that’s done automatically in the cloud system.

Fast, accurate reporting

Reporting was one of the key focus areas during implementation. Knoll’s finance team members worked with interRel to set up automated views they need regularly—by segments, legal entities, and countries.

“This is extremely helpful for our tax reporting on a quarterly basis because historically, we would have to go back to every business unit and ask them to pull results by country or by legal entities so that we could do tax provision work,” Serrao says. “Now we can easily pull that data and generate those views.”

Beyond the monthly and quarterly close, Oracle Cloud EPM’s reporting capabilities give the team visibility into key business metrics, such as a unit’s day sales and inventory turnover. In the past, a team member would have to ask each unit for that data.

Serrao estimates that Oracle EPM Cloud could eliminate 4,000 hours of work a year for her team alone. Knoll subsidiary teams will also save time; their numbers now feed directly into the cloud application, where they can build out their own reports using their data, knowing that the correct corporate numbers are incorporated.

In addition to forcing Serrao and her team to do the financial close virtually, the pandemic has also put a sharper focus on liquidity and working capital.

“There are a lot of things on the plate that you might not have watched as critically in the past—and the amount of reporting we’re able to get out of Oracle Cloud EPM helps us do those assessments,” she says. “It’s just phenomenal.”

Photography: Knoll; Getty Images/Yagi Studio
Illustration: Oracle

Margaret Harrist

Margaret Harrist

Margaret Harrist is director of content strategy and implementation at Oracle, where she focuses on digital disruption, enterprise resource planning, supply chain, Internet of Things, and SaaS. Follow her at @mharrist.